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Bay voters approve most of flood of tax, bond measures

By Steven Luo November 7, 2012 No Comments Print Share

In what is fast becoming a biennial tradition, the Bay Area’s cash-starved local governments went to voters hat in hand, and for the most part, came away with what they asked for.

Of 48 tax or bond measures on the ballot in the six core Bay Area counties, 36 passed, including 13 measures requiring a two-thirds supermajority — though Alameda County voters appeared to be more skeptical than their regional counterparts.

With continued cuts and a large-scale transfer of responsibility from the state to local governments putting local government budgets in a vise, and Bay Area voters having shown a favorable attitude toward past tax measures, it isn’t too surprising that local governments would flock to voters with more proposed tax hikes — the 48 on Tuesday’s ballot was the largest number since November 2010, when 56 such measures were put to voters.

Countywide sales tax increases to support public services cruised to victory in San Mateo County and Santa Clara County, while a parcel tax to support the troubled City College of San Francisco drew 72 percent support, clearing the 2/3 threshold required for passage. San Francisco voters also approved Mayor Ed Lee’s Measure E, which would replace the city’s business payroll tax with a gross receipts tax, by a 71-29 margin.

But Alameda County voters bucked the trend. Countywide measures which would have added a parcel tax to support Oakland Zoo operations and increased the sales tax to fund transportation projects both appeared to be just short of the required 2/3 mark as of Wednesday morning, as were parcel taxes to support the Chabot-Las Positas Community College District and the San Leandro Unified School District. Meanwhile, Berkeley voters approved a bond measure to fund street improvements, but parcel tax and bond measures to support the city’s swimming pools failed to reach the required 2/3 mark.

Outside Alameda County, though, voters were in a more generous mood, passing 18 of the 21 school parcel tax and bond measures measures on the ballot, as well as tax measures to pay for public services in Albany, Piedmont, Moraga, Orinda, Pinole, Half Moon Bay, and Menlo Park. Bay Area voters also helped push through Propositions 30 and 39 statewide, voting for both measures in overwhelming numbers.

Some highlights from the other local measures on the ballot in the Bay Area Tuesday:

  • Richmond voters rejected by a 2-1 margin Measure N, which would have imposed a tax on sugary drinks sold in the city. Supporters cited benefits to children’s health, while the beverage industry campaigned aggressively to defeat the measure.
  • 52 percent of Berkeley voters backed Measure S, which would ban sitting or lying on city sidewalks.
  • Palo Alto Measure C, which would have permitted medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, and San Jose Measure E, which would have expanded cardroom gaming, both went down to heavy defeats, with Measure C drawing just 38 percent support and Measure E 42 percent. In both cases, supported argued the measures would bring new revenues to city coffers, while opponents argued the social costs would exceed any benefits.
  • San Jose voters handily approved Measure D, which would raise the minimum wage from $8 to $10 an hour.

Contact Steven Luo at sluo@californiabeat.org.

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